Meeting the Customer on Their Terms


On this week’s episode of F&I Today, Becky Chernek talks about how meeting the customer on their terms can improve your interview process and increase your overall PVR.

Video Transcription:

Welcome to F&I Today I’m your host Becky Chernek.  For many years I have trained the benefit of the customer interview meeting the customer at the sales person desk prior to the customer going into the F&I office for delivery. The benefit far outweighs the time it takes to meet with the customer it speeds the entire delivery process and when you do it increases profits by as much as $200 per vehicle. By meeting the customer on their terms helps to build rapport takes the monkey off your back and assures the transaction is complete.  It also helps you to ascertain the products that will bring the customer most value – you want to sell products based on the customer needs not yours! When I meet with the customer for the first time at the sales person desk, I want the customer to know who I am, what my duties and responsibilities include and I also want them to know, how long the overall process will take. The idea is stop the clock and take the guess work out of it.  “Hi, Mr. Burns, my name is Becky Chernek I’m the business manager.  Congratulations, I understand you are purchasing a new vehicle with us today, the Silver, Chevy Impala! I also understand that you will be financing this vehicle with us and taking your new vehicle home with you today?”  My responsibility is to review the titling information for accuracy and I also want to take a moment to go over the buying numbers with you.  Since you will be financing with us I also want to take a moment or two and go over the customer statement with you so I can obtain a faster loan approval for you.”  Bear in mind if the customer has a FICO score of 725 and greater you will simply state, “go over the customer statement with you and answer any questions that you may have.  This will take about 5 – 7 minutes do you mind if I join you?” At this point sit with the customer.  If the desk provides you with the EPencil worksheet I would still want to print out a purchase order before I meet with the customer and use the purchase order as a review copy this will help you to stay on track and remind you of the questions you will want to ask. “Mr. Burns this is the correct spelling of your name and you will be the only buyer, this is your primary address and it matches your driver’s license?  You driver’s license is up to date? Again, you are purchasing a 2018 Silver Chevy Impala, really nice car, I think it’s one of my favorites. During your test drive can you confirm the vehicle has 18 miles on it?  I see that you are trading in a 2010 Ford SUV it has 120,000, miles did you buy this vehicle new or used?  If used, can you recall how many miles it had on it when you bought it? Typically, do you trade your vehicles in at the dealership or will you sell it outright?  So, I imagine resale value is important to you, isn’t it? You generally put as many as 15,000 to 20,000 miles on the vehicle per year?  Are you driving habits going to remain the same?  If my used car manager would ask, where do you keep the service records on your trade in?  Will you be coming into our dealership for your regular maintenance?  Great, I look forward to seeing you when you are here! I also see you have no payoff on your trade in, is that correct?  Do you happen to have your trade title with you today and is the trade title in your name only? Did you contact your insurance agent and do you have full coverage insurance?  Do you happen to know what your deductible is?  In the past 10 years have you had to use your insurance for anything major?  Great, I certainly like to hear that! It’s always best to have peace of mind.”  Pointing to the numbers, “these are the numbers you have agreed to, here is your down payment of $1000.00? How will you be taking care of the down payment, check, debit card or credit card?”  Be careful with this one, not every dealer excepts credit cards or may have a limit policy in place. “This is the unpaid balance?  By the way, did you want to consider putting additional money down so that you wouldn’t be financing the taxes and tag fees? I will be going over more personal information we can do that here or if you prefer we can do that in the privacy of another office.”  Most likely the customer will be fine staying at the sales person desk – but use your discretion.  You will be going over the customer statement in other words the credit application with the customer validating the information for accuracy. Reviewing the customer statement is a very important part of the process and will provide you with the information necessary to obtain bank approval. “Mr. Burns the contract will be in your name only is that correct?  This is your primary address where the payment book will be mailed? Speaking of which will the vehicle be parked out front of your home or garage kept?  I see that you are renting is that correct and your payment is this, is it being shared with anyone?  You have lived at your residence for over 6 years?  I see you are a school teacher and you have been employed for over 13 years? If in the event the bank wanted to verify your employment is this the correct number and is there anyone in particular they need to speak with? Do you happen to make additional income, is there any earned income you didn’t include that you would like to? I see you bank with SunTrust is there anyone you in particular you deal with at SunTrust bank?” If the customer has slow pay history I would make it a point to find out what happened what happened, what’s changed and why it won’t happen again.  Take out the credit bureau and go over some of the slow pay history in detail with the customer. This is perfectly legal you aren’t giving the customer a copy of the credit bureau and please bear in mind you are not a credit counselor either.  Don’t be too brass about their credit, don’t beat up the customer but go over the pay back history the questions the bank will likely ask you about such as why the customer was 90 days late on a car payment or house payment or whatever? Remember to take notes and lots of them! Depending on how rough the credit is I often ask the customer to fill out a credit explanation form in their own handwriting. I still like to use the credit explanation form today it’s often better to share the customer’s story with the bank in their own handwriting it tells the bank I’ve done my homework.  The bank seldom receives these credit explanations today and when they do they realize you have taken the extra effort to obtain the real story you didn’t make it up! The added benefit to the credit explanation form it helps to justify the customer rate when needed especially if the contract is approved at a higher interest rate. After I review the customer statement and payback history with the customer I also make it a point to review the payment options and term to assure we have a true meeting of the minds.  I don’t want anything to get in the way of an effective menu presentation – I want to keep my creditability intact at all cost. Once I complete the interview I tell the customer that I have everything I need to get the paper work started and prepare options and then I set a time expectation to make sure they know I will have them back in my office in about 10 – 15 minutes for delivery and they will likely be in their new vehicle driving home within 45 minutes. I ask if they have any additional questions and offer them a cup of coffee or water while they are waiting.  The sales associate comes back and finalizes the transaction goes over the owner’s manual or perhaps this is a great time for the service walk? There should be no idle time for the customer.  The sales person is back and taking care of the rest of the paperwork.  During the interview if you happen to uncover any missing documents such as rebates still need to be validated or payoff information needs to be confirmed this would be a great time to get your ducks in a row that way you’re not spinning wheels and slowing down the F&I process.  When the customer goes into F&I office for delivery there is no guess work they understand expectations and this will also help to reduce their resistance to your presentation.  The interview is essential to assuring the paper work is straight and that you have no surprises to kill your presentation. It also helps you to train your entire staff – they will come to realize the customer will not get into the F&I office unless the deal is straight and ready to go. Every time you let up on the interview and take short cuts you invite grief, deals that aren’t straight – customers that aren’t closed and when that happens it takes the winds out of your sales! Take the time to meet the customer on their terms at the sales person desk get to know them a bit – a 5- 7 minutes review is all that is needed and if you log every customer TO I bet you’ll come to realize it will pay off in dividends at least a $200 – $300 difference in your overall PVR!

Thank you for joining me on F&I Today. Be sure to come back next week right here on the CBT Automotive Network for our next edition of F&I Today. Also, feel free to contact me regarding my consulting services. My specialty is helping auto dealers achieve high levels of performance and profit by improving internal processes that begin the moment customer touches down on the dealership website and ends with finalizing in-person transactions in F&I. Also, for our CBT Automotive dealers – contact me about my complimentary (1) roof top online analysis and find out what’s preventing you from taking the lead position!